Skin cancer: what is it and how do we protect ourselves?

Skin cancer or melanoma occurs when skin cells are damaged, for example, by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Not all melanomas can be prevented, but there are things you can do that could reduce your risk of getting melanoma.

Protect yourself in six ways from skin cancer:

(1) Limit the UV exposure: The most important way to lower your risk of melanoma is to protect yourself from exposure to UV rays. Practice sun safety when you are outdoors. Simply staying in the shade is one of the best ways to limit your UV exposure

(2) Seek shade: An obvious but very important way to limit your exposure to UV light is to avoid being outdoors in direct sunlight too long. This is particularly important in the middle of the day between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm, when UV light is strongest.

(3) Wear sun protective clothing that covers as much of your body as possible: Clothes provide different levels of UV protection, depending on many factors. Long-sleeved shirts and long pants or skirts protect the most. Be aware that covering up doesn’t block out all UV rays. If you can see light through a fabric, UV rays can get through, too.

(4) Wear sunglasses and a hat

(5) Apply SPF30+ or higher broad spectrum water resistant sunscreen liberally to clean, dry skin, at least 20 minutes before being exposed to the sun, and reapply at least every two hours when outdoors: Use sunscreens and lip balms on areas of skin exposed to the sun, especially when the sunlight is strong (for example, between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm). Sunscreens with broad spectrum protection (against UVA and UVB rays) and with sun protection factor (SPF) values of 30 or higher are recommended. Use sunscreen even on hazy days or days with light or broken cloud cover because UV rays still come through.

(6) Protect children from the sun: Children need special attention, since they tend to spend more time outdoors and can burn more easily. Parents and other caregivers should protect children from excess sun exposure by using the steps above. It’s important, particularly in parts of the world where it is sunnier, to cover your children as fully as is reasonable. You should develop the habit of using sunscreen on exposed skin for yourself and your children whenever you go outdoors and may be exposed to large amounts of sunlight.

Always prepare for exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from the sun when going outdoors, even for a brief period of time, by undertaking multiple sun protective behaviours.

Sunscreen is not adequate protection on its own and should not be used to extend the time you spend in the sun.

Sunbeds and solariums also emit UVR, so be aware of the risks associated with tanning....